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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Towards a new symbiosis – Gilberto Esparza

Towards a new symbiosis – Gilberto Esparza

Gilberto Esparza (born in 1975; lives and works in Mexico) is known for building autonomous robots that can survive in urban space, by stealing the energy that generates the city. On finding publications about research projects using microbial fuel cell, he was immediately inspired to develop a project that would engage with the issue of pollution in rivers.

Image profiling Gilberto Esparza

Image profiling Gilberto Esparza

Esparza’s Auto-Photosynthetic Plants is an experiment that uses microbial fuel cells to create sound and energy from water samples collected from urban spaces. He created a symphony using an orchestra that has been never given a voice – microscopic bacteria. The video below shows what Esparza as well as the fuel cells had to say/sing. More information on the project.

Using this knowledge on the microbial fuel cell, Gilberto Esparza followed-up with Nomadic Plants, a robot that assumes the image of a domestic animal. His creation questions the human excesses in materialism, wastefulness and the lack of control of the public administration to handle the problem of the residues produced.

Reminiscing Archigram’s Walking City (because of the project’s nomadic and self-sufficient qualities), Nomadic Plants is a robot where vegetation and microorganisms live in symbiosis inside of its body. Whenever its bacteria require nourishment, the self-reliant robot will move towards a contaminated river and ‘drink’ water from it. Through a process of microbial fuel cells, the elements contained in the water are decomposed and turned into energy that feed the brain circuits of the robot. The surplus is then used to create life, enabling plants to complete their own life cycle.

As Esparza stated: “The nomadic plant is a portray of our own species. It also deals with the alienated transformation of this new hybrid species that fights for its survival in a deteriorated environment.” More information on the project can be found here.


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